Since radiology technicians work on the front lines of medical diagnosis, they need specialized education and training. Professional radiology technician certificate programs can range from one to four years, depending on prior medical experience. All programs require a high school diploma or GED for admission.
One-Year Programs Best suited for health care professionals, a one-year certificate program in radiologic technology can benefit those who want to change their medical specialty or broaden their knowledge of the field.
Two-Year Programs Earning an Associate’s Degree is the most common road to becoming a radiology technician since it caters to such a wide variety of people, including recent high school or college graduates and professionals working in a nonmedical field.
Degree Programs For positions that include teaching, supervising, or administration, a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in radiology or a related field is required.
A radiology technician program will focus on specialized topics in medical science, such as:
The federal government doesn’t require certification for becoming a radiology technician, but most states do. In 2007, 40 states required credentialing administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). More importantly, employers are more likely to hire certified radiology technicians.
According to ARRT, candidates for certification must meet three basic requirements:
With additional experience and continued education, radiology technicians may become specialists in computerized axial tomography (CAT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and angiography. They may also move into supervisory positions, assist radiologists, work as chief radiologic technologists, or — with a Master’s Degree — become department directors.
A radiology technician operates an X-ray machine to produce film images of the human body for medical diagnosis. They typically place film under a part of the patient’s body to create what will later be developed as an X-ray. These radiology results are used to help identify cancers, tumors, broken bones, spots on lungs, and various other diseases.
Because they prepare and position patients for X-rays, explain procedures, and keep patient records, radiology technicians need to have good people skills. They must also learn to operate and maintain X-ray equipment safely. Depending on their position, they may also make purchases of equipment, set work schedules or manage a radiology department.
Some radiology technicians specialize in MRI, CAT scans, and ultrasound procedures. Procedures such as an intravenous pyelogram (IVP) require a radiology technician to prepare a radioactive dye that is injected into the patient to help provide a better image for the X-ray.
According to a 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, out of 196,000 employed radiology technicians, 60% worked at hospitals and 40% worked in doctors’ offices and medical labs (including outpatient clinics). Due to the growth of the aging population, the BLS predicts a 15% increase in radiology technician positions between 2006 and 2016.
Hospitals are expected to be the largest employer of radiology technicians, but some new openings may be found in diagnostic imaging centers and doctors’ offices. Because of the shift toward outpatient care advocated by health insurance companies, there will likely be more radiology services performed outside hospitals. Those willing to pursue specialization in procedures such as MRI, CAT scans, and mammography will have the best opportunities in this future job market.
According to a May 2006 report by the BLS, the annual median pay for radiology technicians was $48,170. The lowest 10% of earners made less than $32,750, but the highest 10% of earners brought in more than $68,920.
In 2006, the BLS stated that the median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of radiology technicians were as follows:
Medical and diagnostic laboratories $51,280 General medical and surgical hospitals $48,830 Physicians’ offices $45,500
According to Payscale.com radiology technician salary research, the median hourly pay rate for a radiology technician — based on years of experience — ranges from $15.72 to $25.83. At Salary.com, average radiology technologist pay information states that the expected median salary for the average radiology technicians in the United States is $45,173.